Notice how our beloved apps are impacting our hearts and minds.
“What a perfect ending to a frantic week,” I said to God in my prayers one December night.
And it had been a good night. As soon as my son’s Friday evening basketball game ended, my four kids and I loaded into my SUV. We stopped for take-out and arrived home for pajamas and our first Christmas movie of the season. It was a night of nothing that we all needed after a jam-packed week of late-night, after-school activities. It was bliss for each of us.
Have you ever had those nights? Where you choose to stay home, and it feels wonderful?
But the next morning I made the grave mistake of opening social media. Front and center on the feed were pictures of loved ones enjoying our small-town Christmas parade that had taken place the previous night. While our family was enjoying our night at home, our friends were taking selfies with parade floats.
I found my perspective shifting. Perhaps our night hadn’t been so perfect. My thoughts started rolling down the runway of self-doubt: maybe I should have stopped by the parade. Am I a bad mom for choosing a family night on the couch over a night of community? Was our night really that great? Had I deprived my children of a seasonal benchmark? Had I ruined our kick-off to the Christmas season?
It all sounds silly and overly dramatic. Yet, my internal dialogue was exploding with these questions. Seconds before I’d been smiling at the memory of a restful night at home, but now- looking into the virtual lives of others – contentment was being overpowered by discontent and self-doubt. All before my first cup of coffee!
Social media can do that to us, can’t it? Not only do we deal with “FOMO” (fear of missing out), jealousy, and a host of other issues, viewing social media can give us a case of the “KIMO”. This regret of “knowing I missed out” causes even the most emotionally mature of us to sigh in disappointment that we can’t be in two places at once and can cause us to always second-guess our past choices.
“KIMO” can be exhausting. It can rob us of enjoying our own great moments.
This was an eye-opening experience on how social media affects my mood. You see, this was the first time I had checked my social media in several days. I’d been trying to take a hiatus from the platforms to make better use of my time and to see if social media really was impacting my mental health.
The verdict was clear: social media does affect my mental health. Social media is, by design, addictive and can lead to anxiety and depression. My own quick self-study showed me that it can cause me to doubt my own decisions and doubt my own contentment.
Discontent is not part of the life God desires for us to have as His followers. Our life will be most abundant when we follow His precepts. This includes taking steps to guard our hearts against anything that causes discontent to take up residence in our minds.
How can we guard our hearts against discontent in a digital world? Here are a few suggestions:
- Consult God with choices and then TRUST the answer. Let’s not waver in trusting Him- it will lead to unnecessary inner turmoil.
- Be present. Honor time together by being in the present instead of mindlessly “seeing what others are up to” by scrolling social media.
Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Perhaps take it further and remind yourself “this is the moment God has made; let me rejoice and be glad in it.”
- Monitor your before and after emotions when engaging with social media. If you find yourself leaning more towards “sad/anxious” than “happy/content” after scrolling, recognize that this is a sign you need to lessen your access to the apps.
- Take a hiatus. Set time limits. Find other ways to connect. Ask yourself if you have an addiction. Addiction to social media is more common than one might think. I do mostly enjoy social media, but I take a lot of efforts to guard my life so that it doesn’t take more space in my life than it should.
- Remind yourself that it is impossible to be two places at once. You oversee making the best decision for yourself and for those under your charge. Enjoy the decision you made!
- Read your Bible, praise Him for the present, and pray about any unsavory emotions that erupt after using the platforms. Connecting with our Lord will focus our minds on the sovereign instead of dwelling in negative post-scroll emotions that sometimes erupt.
- Imagine what it would be like to go into a room and have one-hundred people tell you highs, lows, prayer requests, gender announcement, rants, opinions, dinner plans, plus you get sales ads for boots, vacations, and whatever else your computer thinks you need. All in less than two-minutes!
This nightmare of a room is the equivalent of the over-communication and over-stimulation we get with scrolling social media. No wonder our brains get overwhelmed with overload! Sometimes we must turn off this information source to give our minds a bit of a break.
As we go forth this new year, I invite us all to take notice of the small things that can lead up to big effects in our emotional well-being. Don’t waste this new year with FOMO or KIMO; instead, rest in the present. It’s far better! (And sometimes includes pajamas, a couch, yummy treats, and a family movie after a long week.)
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” 1 Timothy 6:6
Sarah Philpott, Ph.D, is the author of the award-winning book: Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss and The Growing Season: A Year of Down-on-the-Farm Devotions. Sarah lives in Tennessee on a cattle farm where she raises her four mischievous children and is farm wife to her high-school sweetheart. She doesn’t share desserts.